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Letter: Timor election claim

Sir: Mr Ali Alatas, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, is attempting to blame anyone but Jakarta for the militia violence in East Timor. He claims that the UN was at fault because it failed to explain to the defeated pro-autonomy group the way it handled complaints of electoral fraud.

I have just returned from East Timor as part of a UN-accredited observer mission. Our delegation, which included Anthony Lloyd, former minister of state at the Foreign Office, a retired chief superintendent of police and a former investigator for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, concluded that, although there had been widespread intimidation and violence emanating from the Indonesians and the militias that they created, the polling day itself was as fair and free as could have resulted under these circumstances. This was also the conclusion of other international observation groups.

I attended the public hearings that the independent electoral commissioners conducted into the allegations of electoral fraud made by the pro-autonomy grouping, the United Front for Timorese Autonomy (Unif). The hearing was presided over by Justice Kriegler of South Africa (former head of the Independent Electoral Commission), Patrick Bradley, chief electoral officer for Northern Ireland, and a respected Korean judge.

Three things became clear at the hearing. First, all allegations began to unravel under questioning from the United Nations Assistance Mission to East Timor (Unamet) and from the three commissioners. Secondly, there would have to have been an implausible level of complicity between Unamet local and international staff, official observers and international observers for serious electoral fraud to have taken place. Thirdly the Indonesian government had some knowledge of the Unif case, if indeed they had not drafted it.


Conflict and Peace Officer, Catholic Institute for International Relations

London N1